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What To Wear Under Ski Pants

It’s all too frequent in the world of skiing and snowboarding to hear about new gear, new technology, and what new set of skis or snowboards are on the market.

But, unfortunately, the most enduring and rational questions might sometimes get buried in the thrill of all the newness of all this tech discourse.

With this in mind, let’s look at one of the most common queries that many newcomers to the sport, or those returning after a long absence, have: What to wear under ski pants?

What Are Ski Pants?

layers and materials for ski pants

Most ski pants have a three-layer construction. The outer shell comprises a robust and waterproof fabric layer with a bonded waterproof membrane, an insulating layer, and a liner.

Garment manufacturers make the liner from smooth polyester or nylon fabric that protects the waterproof membrane or insulation from excessive wear. However, because it doesn’t drain moisture away from the skin, it will quickly become clammy if you wear it without anything underneath.

The term “layering system” is frequently used, and it refers to a layering process that successfully manages heat and moisture. What to wear under ski pants is a question that we answer by creating the ideal barrier between your skin and your ski trousers. This layer will keep you dry, comfy and, most importantly, allow you to ski the slopes all day.


Ski pants are available in numerous fabrics, each of which affects the style, feel, and, in some cases, the waterproofing of the trousers. So, naturally, the type of skiing you’ll be performing will determine which ski pants are best for you.

Insulated Ski Pants

Insulated ski pants have a waterproof exterior layer and an inner layer with insulation. Various ski pants have different levels of insulation.

Softshell Ski Pants

Manufacturers construct the best shell ski pants from a woven fabric with a soft stretch. Soft-shell ski pants are more breathable and weather-resistant than hard-shell ski trousers and allow for more range of movement. This construction makes them ideal for those who are especially active on the slopes. They’re also more suitable for drier conditions.

Hardshell Ski Pants

Taped seams and full waterproofing are features of hard-shell ski trousers. If you’re expecting damp weather, these ski pants might be a better fit.


walking trough snow

A pair of ski trousers must have a hydrostatic head rating of at least 1500 mm and taped seams to be deemed waterproof. Manufacturers use a hydrostatic head test to determine the waterproofing of ski trousers.

The fabric is first pushed firmly over a sealed tube. Next, the machine applies force and raises water pressure against the cloth to determine the hydrostatic rating, which is the amount of water that the fabric and seams can tolerate before it starts to breach the material. The outcome is the level of waterproofing present in the garment.


Skiing or snowboarding, like any other form of exercise, will make you hot and sweaty. Therefore, how breathable your ski pants are is a significant consideration when choosing the perfect pair for you.

Small water vapor molecules travel through breathable clothes, but a protective barrier prevents water droplets from reaching your base layers.

The amount of vapor that can move through a garment in 24 hours goes through a ‘Moisture Vapor Transfer’ assessment test.

Important Features

When shopping for ski trousers, check for these elements that will help you feel more comfortable and enjoy your time on the slopes:

  • Leg gaiters keep snow out of the openings of your ski pants, keeping your feet and legs dry.
  • On the slopes, zipped pockets will keep whatever you need to carry securely.
  • Stretch fabric allows for maximum mobility and range of motion.
  • Waist adjusters allow you to customize the fit of your ski pants.
  • You can control thigh ventilation temperature and by purchasing garments with a mesh lining for extra ventilation.
  • Anti-abrasive reinforcement: To boost durability and reduce friction wear and tear, you can strengthen the pant hems with anti-abrasive material.
  • The Recco Rescue Reflectors system is a cutting-edge rescue device that aids rescuers in finding and locating trapped skiers and snowboarders in the event of an avalanche. The high-frequency signal of Recco detectors works with reflectors attached to the inside or outside of ski trousers.
  • Ski trousers with a 10,000 mm rating provide the highest level of waterproofing, ensuring that you stay dry on the slopes.


materals for base layer

Polyester and merino wool are the two most common textiles in the base layer market. Each has merit, so let’s look at them one by one:

1. Polyester

Elastane or spandex in combination with polyester fabrics produces fabrics with more elasticity. This combination also ensures greater fabric breathability, quick drying, and moisture-wicking.

So if you run hot and generate a lot of sweat, polyester is a good choice because it will keep you cool all day. In addition, polyester is available with a brushed inside or a super-soft hand feel, making it suitable for persons with sensitive skin or who want a more comfortable wearing experience.

Polyester is also a bit cooler than merino, so it’s a good option for individuals doing more intense activities like hiking in the mountains or laying down lines in the park. However, if you wear pants with insulation, they may feel a little less breathable, so if you don’t get chilly quickly, a faster-drying base layer may be a good choice.

2. Merino

Merino wool is a popular base layer material due to its desirable natural qualities, the most notable of which are comfort and warmth. Given that merino wool naturally absorbs moisture, it is unsurprisingly also moisture-wicking. Clothing manufacturers expressly use it in garment making for these characteristics. As a result, some of the higher-end brands prefer using this product in their attire.

Merino wool is an excellent choice for cold-weather riders or those who need to focus on heat regulation. Merino should be the go-to for anyone who gets cold quickly, whether it’s to pair with non-insulated pants for that extra bit of warmth retention or to pair with insulated pants if you’re skiing in harsher locations.

Merino doesn’t lack performance, but it isn’t nearly as quick-drying or wicking as polyester, so that you may become a touch sweaty on warmer days.

Role Of Ski Pants

Ski jackets and pants are composed of a durable fabric that keeps you warm and dry when on the slopes.

There are many different sorts of materials that manufacturers use for ski pants. It is essential to match your gear to the style of skiing you’ll be doing as well as your personality.

Men’s vs. Women’s Ski Pants 

Men’s vs. Women’s Ski Pants

While many skiers assume the only difference between men’s and women’s skis is the cut, there are significant variations in weight, flex, width, length, and mounting position that result in ski pants that perform better and decrease fatigue for many skiers.

Women’s ski pants are specifically built to meet the needs of female skiers and their unique body structures. The most significant difference is that women’s ski pants are 20% lighter, have a 20% softer flex, and the mounting location is somewhat forward to accommodate a woman’s center of gravity.

Importance Of Layering

There are a few elements to consider regarding layering and what to wear under ski pants, specifically layering up your ski pants for a day on the slopes.

Most importantly, there is the issue of personal preference as well as personal experience. If you like to be toasty and warm all day with loads of cuddly insulation, or you prefer to be light on your feet with a pair of pants that don’t have insulation, that’s your choice. You also have other options if you prefer to be light on your feet with a couple of trousers that don’t have insulation.

Second, how you ride can have an impact on what to wear under ski pants. Your skiing style means you’ll need to wear a base layer underneath your pants, in which case the fabric, weight, and combination of your layering are essential.

Best Things To Wear Under Ski Pants

You should wear base layers all the time. You aren’t meant to wear ski pants next to the skin as they’ll merely become wet and cold. However, while riding, base layers will help regulate heat, wick sweat, and keep you comfortable.

Another consideration when choosing what to wear under ski pants is whether you want to go with an even base layer or go for long underwear or even leggings:

1. The Classic Base Layer

classic base layer

Base layers aren’t that different from merino or polyester, but they’re often worn over underwear and under ski trousers. You may typically find base layer clothing that is both form-fitting and looser in this scenario. Polyester base layers are usually more form-fitting, as the tighter fit reduces chafing and improves moisture wicking.

Merino baselayers are typically a little looser to trap heat using air layers between the base layer and your skin and between the base layer and your ski pants, reducing the ease with which heat may travel.

But which is the most effective? It all comes down to personal preference. When wearing the form-fitting, usually adjustable polyester base layer, it will be less noticeable. It won’t irritate, bunch, or restrict your movement, but it will cling to your skin all day.

Looser foundation layers may be more apparent, but they will let your skin breathe a little more. It is up to you to make that decision.

2. The Long John

When it comes to long underwear, you want something that serves as both underwear and a base layer, providing support and comfort while also keeping you warm. Long Johns is underwear with long legs.

If you enjoy the idea of polyester base layers, don’t get too cold, and merely want to thin down your layering, these are a decent choice.

However, because they aren’t made with a high-tech focus, you may have to give up some of the dedicated foundation layer’s performance of other products. Furthermore, they aren’t always available in merino fabric.

3. Leggings

leggins under ski pants

Many leggings, particularly those designed by winter sportswear firms, may be used as base layers and do well as a base layer.

They typically have shorter hems and work well with ski socks. Their offset flatlock seams, designed to prevent chafing in the gym, also translate nicely to laying down lines on the mountain.

You’ll be able to deal with some winter clamminess thanks to their construction, which wick away all the sweat that a challenging spin class can throw at you. However, the primary disadvantage is the size.

Gym leggings are designed to be an “outer” layer for their day job and can seem a touch too thick in comparison to a lighter weight base layer. However, if you’re seeking a warmer alternative to the typical polyester base layer, your leggings will suffice.

Polyester is great for anyone who doesn’t mind staying warm, wants to increase their activity levels with some park riding or backcountry riding, or produces a lot of sweat because it doesn’t store moisture well.

Merino wool is more suitable for any skier who prefers a looser base layer, likes to feel warm and snug, or prefers the sensation of natural fibers against their skin.

Related Questions

Can You Have Nothing Under Ski Pants?

Going skiing is everything, but your skivvies and snow trousers have a few drawbacks, the first of which is general warmth.

Because your legs don’t need as much protection as your torso does with a jacket, many snow pants, especially men’s ski or snowboard trousers, have little to no insulation.

Many snow trousers, especially for women, are shell pants with a softer or even fleece lining. But this usually isn’t enough to keep your legs warm, especially while your butt is locked on a frigid chairlift unless you’re solely spring skiing in warm sunny weather.

There may also be comfort concerns, as not all pants have linings, and the seams, zippers, and various other design elements may create chafing.

Are Ski Pants Essential?

A good pair of water-resistant snow pants is necessary unless you want to ski wet and half-frozen.


Always remember to bring your second skin, such as a pair of Long Johns, while planning your first or next ski trip vacation.

It will determine whether or not you will enjoy the time of your life. You don’t even have to worry about the ski pants if you have a base layer on hand.

However, if you’re going to a frigid cold place, don’t forget to add another mid-layer to your second skin. Always keep in mind–the key to an adventurous ski holiday lies in what to wear under ski pants and, of course, your skis.



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